Many know her as famous Doctor Oz’s sister. Even though she did think of becoming a doctor like her brother and father when she was a little girl, she later preferred to work in the field of technology. Today Seval Öz is one of the leading women leaders in the field of technology. She tells us about the latest project she was working on; the self-driving car, her future plans and what should be done to increase the number of women leaders in technology.



Even though you are known as Doctor Oz’s sister in Turkey, you are actually one of the world’s women leaders in technology. Can you tell us about the projects you worked on before?

Technology is like the result of my curious personality. I try to find solutions for apparent problems. To be able to move, to be mobile is a basic human right but then I wondered why I have to drive a car in traffic. Furthermore to think that I may not be able to move as much as I would wish to when I get older, disturbed and worried me. So that’s why I decided to join the GoogleX team, while the self-driving car project was still only a scientific project.


We see that women usually don’t prefer to work in the field of technology. You are one of the women who prove us wrong. How did you decide to work in this field?

Actually if you take a look at statistics, you can see that men and women have similar interests in technology at an early age. The rate is similar when in high school and even in university. As women get married and start leaving the work force, the number of women working in technology begins to decline. Another issue is that women are not promoted as much as men, especially in this field. We probably are not as good as men at boasting about our successes.


What kind of developments will be happening in technology in the next ten years?

The internet will become much more contextual according to our needs and interests. Our preferences and routine behavior will be tracked through the use of digital personal assistants and a much more personalized cloud architecture devoted to our personal interests.


What project are you working on presently?

For the last ten years, I have been working on the self-driving car project. I consult many people in the automotive sector on how they can make the transition in this new field. This brand new ecosystem requires a new approach of leadership for local managements, infrastructures and private sector software initiatives. Business divisions will need to compete with each other and internally cannibalize product lines in order to transition into digital servitization. Thus, there is plenty of work for us to do.


The self-driving car project attracted a lot of attention worldwide. Could you give us some information about this project?

When I first started to visit the automotive companies in 2011, nobody even wanted to talk about this technology. They all said that it would take 50 years to happen. I would be dead by that time! So I aimed at speeding the project up so that my daughter, if not me, who was 8 years old at the time, could make use of this technology… She wouldn’t have to get a drivers licence. My daughter Rüya is now 16 years old. She has an uber membership that she would prefer to owning a new car. And today we are at a point where nobody can imagine how safe the software will be. The last 10 percent of the work, takes up 90 percent of the time. So we have to wait and see what happens with it.


We know that you like to drive a fast car yourself. Did you especially want to work on this project or was it a coincidence?

I spefically chose this project, among all projects that Google is working on. Google purchased a small start-up called Cuil that I was working on in 2010. I was offered a job at Google. Google X was a brand new project focusing on getting together entrepreneurs, scientific projects and professors in order to discover and work on technology with a huge global impact.


You have a busy schedule. What are you interested in other than work? Do you have any hobbies?

I love everything that has to do with the sea. I actually prefer boats to cars. I may one day live on the sea. Nowadays I live by the sea in Yeniköy in İstanbul and that is as close to my dream that I can get to it for now. I love my job and I see it as a hobby. Other than that, I love to get together and spend time with my friends and family.


There are a lot of medical doctors in your family. Did you not think of becoming a doctor when you were growing up?

Maybe some day, I will enable you to have a check-up in your car, without even going to the doctor’s office. Who knows?.. I actually did want to become a doctor when I was growing up at one point but then I felt the need to specialize in new technology fields. I felt medicine was too traditional and focused on treating the symptoms. I was more curious about what caused the disease.


Are you close to your brother Doctor Oz? How often do you see him?

Our deceased father, Dr. Mustafa Öz, was a doctor of medicine and a professor at medical school. He used to wake us up for school in the morning with a bell they hung on the necks of cows in the villages in Turkey. I guess he felt like a shepherd keeping track of his herd. When I lived in California, my brother Mehmet called me every morning to wake me up. Now I am the one living in Istanbul, Turkey, farther east compared to where he lives in New York City and I tend to call him every morning and wake him up with a video call. We grew up very close because our age difference is very little. We love to discover new things together. New food for instance… We have a lot in common; space programs, exciting soccer games and other sports. We recently lost our father. This brought us closer because we are very fond of our mother and this made us more concious of her health and each other’s health, too.


Dr. Oz is well-known for his health prescriptions. Do you follow them, too?

I am the weakest link in the ‘Healthy Oz Family’. I can easily say that I have bad habits when it comes to eating.


What can be done so more women enter the work force in the technology world and work as managers?

We need more women professionals on the board of trustees of companies. Turkish Business Women Association TİKAD and similar organizations should be supported by companies and young professionals should work in close contact with universities. As women managers, we should be mentoring young women in the fields of science and technology. We can be much more active about sponsoring events aimed and bringing together women in similar fields and much more vocal about the decisions we make in our own career paths. This should be our aim.


What are your future plans? Where will we see you next?

Wow, this is a difficult question to answer. After the self-driving car project comes to life, I will be continuing with my work as a technology leader. Other than that, I would like to spend a year in the ocean and go to the moon. Not at the same time of course… I would like to open a winery, red wine if possible. Finally, I would want to plan a music festival to raise funds for many of the causes we want our youth to engineer our way out of. This festival could be watched by the whole world via satellite.